Koepka moves up a class with second straight U.S. Open win
June 18, 2018
By Cameron Morfit, PGATOUR.COM
On the Range
Brooks Koepka's pre-round warm-up routine
SOUTHAMPTON, N.Y. – At the end of a week of punishing wind and rain, fescue and lightning-fast greens, Brooks Koepka fires a final-round 68 to hold off a surging Tommy Fleetwood (63) at the 118th U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills.
Welcome to the Monday Finish, where Koepka became the first player to successfully defend his U.S. Open title since Curtis Strange in 1989.
1 Koepka’s tee-to-green game is terrific, but don’t overlook his putting.
He was in trouble when he hit a wedge into the fescue left of the 11th green, especially when he and his caddie, Ricky Elliott, arrived at the ball and looked down to find it nesting in long grass that was pointing away from the green. The best they could hope for was to hack the ball out and let it roll into the bunker on the other side of the green.
That’s exactly what happened, and after splashing out, Koepka rolled in a crucial bogey putt from just inside 13 feet to limit the damage. He then made par putts of just over 6 feet and 8 ½ feet at the 12th and 14th holes, respectively, to maintain momentum.
“I’ll tell you what,” said Elliott, who has worked for Koepka for five years, “he’s been one of the best putters on TOUR for two or three years.”
2 Koepka’s outsized will comes from his family.
Few tournaments take a toll quite like the U.S. Open, but while Koepka took a few hits, he never stayed down for long. He said he was glad for the tournament’s fabled toughness, for he knew it would take out half the field and highlight his competitive toughness.
When he was growing up, he said, his father, Bob, never let him win. And when the son finally surpassed the father, there was Koepka’s little brother, Chase, who teamed with Brooks in last year’s two-man Zurich Classic of New Orleans, to worry about.
“Once we started beating (Bob), it was me and Chase going at it,” Koepka said. “I think that’s why he’s so good now, the competitiveness that he’s had to go through with myself and my dad. No one’s going to let it—nobody wanted to lose, let’s put it that way. There were times when I came home pouting, and Chase did, too, getting beat by him. It’s a very competitive family.”
So much so that Koepka went stir-crazy when he sat out for three months with a wrist injury to start the season. “I’ve got to be competing at something,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what it is.”
3 The winner wasn’t worried about third-place Dustin Johnson (70).
“He’s going to win another one,” Koepka said. “I mean, we all know that.”
Johnson has 18 PGA TOUR victories, including the 2016 U.S. Open at Oakmont, but in winning on Sunday, Koepka now takes the lead in major championships won, two to one.
“Going to the gym with him, starting training, you see how hard he works,” Koepka added. “You see how talented he is. He’s physically gifted. In my mind, he’s probably one of the most talented guys ever to play the game. And the attitude, the work ethic, everything that he brings to it, I mean, in my book, he will, when he’s done, probably go down as one of the best of all time.”
4 Fleetwood and Reed will be back.
Tommy Fleetwood (solo second, one back) shot a final-round 63 that could easily have been better, were it not for missed birdie putts on his closing holes. He failed to birdie the par-5 16th, and his uphill birdie putt from 8 feet, 7 inches slid by on the low side on 18.
Masters champion Patrick Reed (68, solo fourth, three back) roared out of the gate but missed a par putt of just under three feet at the ninth, failed to birdie 16, and bogeyed 18.
Still, both players impressed with their play.
“It was a good one,” Fleetwood said. “It was a great one. I mean, yeah, so many positives, so many great things.”
Said Reed: “Through the first 11 holes, I didn’t really feel like I missed a golf shot. I was hitting my lines.”
5 Tony Finau has a dedicated team of supporters.
Finau made a late double-bogey to drop from a tie for third with Johnson into solo fifth, a difference of over $200,000, but he played well, and he should win something for having the most dedicated team of friends and family.
His wife, Alayna, flew to New York on Friday in order to watch on the weekend, but his coach, Boyd Summerhays, really went the extra mile.
Summerhays, who grew up competing against peers like Charles Howell and briefly dabbled on the TOUR, was at Shinnecock but flew home Friday to watch his son Preston, 15, become the youngest-ever winner of the Utah State Amateur, a tournament with a 120-year history, at Oakridge Country Club on Saturday.
Preston, a rising sophomore, beat University of Utah golfer Kyler Dunkle 3 and 2 to take the age record away from PGA TOUR pro Daniel Summerhays (his uncle, Boyd’s brother) by a few months. Boyd then boarded a plane and flew back to New York, and looked none the worse for wear as he watched Finau play in the last group at Shinnecock on Sunday.
“Tony and Daniel kept telling him this was his last year to break the record,” Summerhays said with a smile befitting a proud dad on Father’s Day.
1 Koepka averaged 318.3 yards off the tee and was second in driving distance, behind Ryan Fox (318.8, T41). Gary Woodland (T36) was third at 314.7, Jhonattan Vegas (T41) fourth at 313.2, and Dustin Johnson (solo fourth) fifth at 312.5. Finau (solo fifth) was ninth at 310.1.
2 Fleetwood hit the most fairways, with 48 (86 percent), with eight players tied for second with 47 (84 percent). Although the conventional wisdom said players wouldn’t survive by straying from the short grass, Koepka hit just 36 fairways (64 percent) and was tied for 55th in that stat.
3 China’s Haotong Li (69, T16) led the field in greens in regulation (71 percent), Fleetwood and Johnson tied for second (69 percent), and Koepka was fourth (68 percent). Alex Noren led in putting, taking 28.5 strokes per round on the greens. Keopka (29.75) tied for seventh best.
4 The par-4 14th hole, which played between 511 and 536 yards depending on the setup, played toughest of the week with a 4.567 stroke average. Koepka double-bogeyed it on the way to an opening-round 75, but made three pars after that, including a crucial save from 8 ½ feet Sunday.
5 Rickie Fowler (65, T20) bettered his third-round 84 by 19 shots and shared the record for low front nine (31) for the week with Hideki Matsuyama (66, T16) and Reed. Fleetwood shot the lowest back nine (31) and lowest round (63).